National Consumers League

Health Advisory Council meeting report | June 2017

Third Annual Spring Membership Meeting

June 6, 2017

Welcome and overview

Sally Greenberg, executive director, National Consumers League
Sally Greenberg welcomed attendees to the Third Annual Spring Membership Meeting of the Health Advisory Council. Greenberg thanked the Members of the Council for their support, engagement, and enthusiasm. She then introduced the distinguished panel of experts, who discussed the current health policy landscape, including the status of healthcare reform in the Senate. 

Health policy panel
The following panelists engaged in discussion and answered questions from Council Members about the current health policy landscape: 

  • PanelistsModerator Janay Johnson, health policy manager, National Consumers League
  • Joel White, president, Council for Affordable Health Coverage
  • Theresa Chalhoub, health policy counsel, National Partnership for Women & Families
  • Myra Simon, executive director, employer and commercial policy, America's Health Insurance Plans
  • Yvette Fontenot, partner, Avenue Solutions

Discuss the status of healthcare legislation in the Senate.

Joel White noted that there is a great deal of push and pull between moderates and conservatives in the Republican Party. There is a big push in the Senate to get a bill on the floor before the August recess, and to pass it under Reconciliation.

Discuss the possibility that the Senate bill will be ‘AHCA-lite.’

Yvette Fontenot said that it appears that the Senate bill will contain about 85 percent of the current House bill’s provisions. AHCA would cut financial assistance to low-income individuals, roll back protection for individuals with pre-existing conditions, and allow the Essential Health Benefits (EHB) requirements to be waived. A major issue that is currently being negotiated in the Senate is the implementation of per-capita caps for Medicaid. Theresa Chalhoub explained that the proposed cuts to Medicaid funding and implementation of per-capita caps would gut the system and have a negative impact on maternity care, since Medicaid currently covers approximately 50 percent of all births in the United States. With such a sharp decrease in federal support for Medicaid, states will have no choice but to cut eligibility, benefits, and/or provider payment rates.

Fontenot noted that in addition to completely restructuring Medicaid, the Senate is also debating the design of tax credits to try to make them more effective and efficient. All of the panelists expressed concern that Congress is not addressing how to bring down the cost of health care.

Discuss the current and future impact of uncertainty on health insurance plans.

There is a great deal of uncertainty regarding the government’s willingness to fund the Cost Sharing Reductions (CSR). If the government will no longer reimburse insurers for these costs, premiums will rise. Myra Simon highlighted a study recently done in Pennsylvania that found that with certainty on the CSR’s and the individual mandate, premiums would rise by 8.8 percent next year. However, without this certainty, premiums would rise by over 35 percent. 

Discuss New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s actions to keep insurance companies in New York’s Exchange by prohibiting companies that withdraw from the Exchange from participating in Medicaid or New York’s children’s health plan.

Myra Simon said that other states will certainly observe what New York is doing, and some may follow suit if it appears to be a success. However, this could potentially create a problem for some insurers that successfully offer Medicaid managed care plans but simply are not set up to function in the Exchange.

Discuss the reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Yvette Fontenot and Joel White said that while it’s possible that CHIP reauthorization will be rolled into Reconciliation, it’s more likely that it will be packaged up with User Fee bills or some other must-pass legislation. Governors caution that CHIP must be reauthorized before the summer in order to allow them to develop their state budgets. 

Discuss the recent Washington Post editorial that suggested that Medicare funding could be slashed without negatively impacting patients.

Joel White noted that there is a lot of waste in the healthcare system. Medication adherence, which NCL works to advance through its Script Your Future campaign, could save the Medicare system millions of dollars by improving patient outcomes and reducing hospitalizations. Yvette Fontenot added that delivery system reforms that incentivize value-based care can be utilized to achieve better quality care at a lower cost.         

National Consumers League’s health program priorities

Karin Bolte, health policy director, National Consumers LeagueKarin Bolte
Following the panel discussion, Karin Bolte gave an overview of NCL’s health programs and policy priorities. NCL carries out its health policy work through research, education, advocacy, and convening. NCL’s key priorities are:

  • Ensuring access to quality affordable healthcare, including working to protect the Affordable Care Act, supporting the FDA, and ensuring that consumer-friendly quality measures are developed, and that there is subsequent reporting by healthcare providers and institutions on compliance with measures and standards, and that patient-centered outcomes are emphasized.
  • Safe and appropriate use of medicines, including medication adherence, vaccines, counterfeit drugs, and compounded drugs.
  • Helping consumers to navigate the health care system, including improving healthcare provider-patient communication, promoting health literacy, and improving health care transparency on price, quality, and safety.

Information sharing from Health Advisory Council Members 

Following the overview of NCL’s health programs, Health Advisory Council Members had the opportunity to share updates on their programs, priorities, and initiatives with each other. Please see the Q2 2017 Health Advisory Council newsletter for a brief summary of member updates. 

Closing remarks

Sally Greenberg
Greenberg thanked the Health Advisory Council Members for attending the meeting and for their continued support of NCL. She encouraged Members to contact NCL with ideas and suggestions for Council activities.